I’m not sure what to write next.

portlandia
courtesy Portlandia

Yes, I’ve blogged about this before.  I have a bunch of ‘maybe’ projects simmering on the back burner, waiting to be picked up and worked on, or trunked and forgotten.  It’s not going to take center stage until I finish and release The Balance of Light, so it’s going to be a while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start with the pre-production.  I can certainly start playing around with outlines, character sheets, timelines and whatnot.  Just that the bulk of the project won’t begin until at least sometime this autumn.

But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of starting a new project.  As I’ve said before, it’s been so long since I’ve come up with a completely new idea that sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to do it.  [I don’t always think this, though…one of the ‘maybes’ came out of nowhere during my 750 Words exercises, so I know I can do it.]

I know I sometimes overthink this part of the process; it’s the most stereotypical of writer’s blocks: what should I write?  We focus too much on wanting/needing to start something.  It’s like when you need to start that term paper for English class, but you have no idea what to write about…and that’s when you start stressing, because you’re focusing too much on getting it done before deadline and not enough on the writing itself.

I try to keep my mind open when new ideas come to me; more to the point, I try not to rely mainly on chance and random inspiration, because that almost never works.  The trick is to sow some kind of seed of an idea and work with it for a bit, see if you can make something out of it.  I tend to be a pantser in terms of writing, so what I consider my best ideas usually come from something only distantly related to it: one of the ‘maybes’ I have on tap came to me out of someone else mentioning the Osmonds in passing on their blog.  Out of that came the idea of writing a fictional music biography.

I have an idea jar here in Spare Oom, a long narrow glass jar with a plastic stopper that I bought for a dollar-something at the kitchenware store up the street.  I haven’t used it in some time, but there’s a few years’ worth of scrap paper in there of passing ideas.  Thoughts that came to mind that I didn’t have time to follow up on.  Just images, scenes, or characters that popped into my head while I was doing something else.  I haven’t even looked at these notes for some time, so now I’m curious as to what’s listed.  I used a few of them for my daily practice words a year or so ago.  Perhaps it’s time to do that again.

I’m not sure what I’m going to write after the Bridgetown Trilogy is done, but at least I’m going to be somewhat prepared.

On Writing: Who Am I Writing For?

gromit

I’ll admit, that’s not a question I often thought about when I first started writing, because the answer was most likely going to be: well, ME, of course.  What a silly question!

I’ve tried in the past to write for a specific audience, and it never quite panned out the way I wanted it to.  Love Like Blood was me trying to write to the urban fantasy crowd.  Two Thousand was me trying to write for the litfic crowd.  True Faith was me trying to write for the sf/virtual reality crowd of the mid 90s.  All three projects have since been trunked, as I found them to be some of my worst work.  Paved with good intentions, but let’s face it: I was pandering.  I was trying to write for an easy buck.

Recently I’ve been thinking about who I’m writing for, and each time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m still writing for who I want to write for:  just your regular blue-collar joe who likes to read.  Yes, I’m still writing for me, but I’ve noticed the biggest response I get from readers is not always the avid science fiction/fantasy reader, but those I know who like to read a little (or a lot) of everything.  Someone who might read the latest George RR Martin but follow it up with, say, a history of 60s counterculture.  Or maybe not even that: someone who just likes reading what they like reading, and don’t necessarily fit into the definition of ‘avid fan’.

That’s not to say I find avid genre fans beneath my stature, far from it.  I just know that I’m not a hard sf writer or a military sf writer or even a high fantasy writer.  I just write what comes to mind, and I try to fill my created worlds with people and ideas that my readers will connect with.

The Mendaihu Universe might be chock full of spirituality, but I try not to write religious/spiritual fiction, which is its own genre.  The characters in this universe of mine have the same issues as readers: frustration, fear, indecision, confusion, irritation.  I put the characters into an everyday situation that just happens to have a supernatual/spiritual setting.  And for the most part, I think I pull it off, because nearly all my readers so far have commented on that as a definite plus to the worldbuilding.

I’ve been thinking about this in part because I’ve been trying to figure out how to sell my trilogy now that two-thirds of it is already out there.  It’s one thing to self-publish and release it, but it’s quite another to get it out there and advertise it.  As much as I dislike sales, I do need to think about who my target audience would be.  I know, I should probably think of this WHILE I’m writing the stories, but that can’t always happen.  Again: if I write to order, I write horribly.   I can only write what I know I can write.

But what about my other projects?  The non-MU stories?  Who am I writing for then?  I probably won’t know until the project starts.  I have some non-genre stories in mind that could easily be quirky litfic.  I have some genre stories that would fit nicely in the urban fantasy mold.

For me, I guess the only way I’ll know is when I start writing the damned things!

Feeling Twitchy

The problem with going through a major editing/revision/release process is that it eats up quite a lot of time I set aside for my writing.  It leaves precious little time for any new work unless I sneak some time in during the day.  [Which I’m doing right now…this post is being written in the slow moments of my Day Job.]

This makes me twitchy.  I want to write something new, but deadlines loom.  I don’t mind the editing/revising part of the job, but the longer it takes, the more I have that itch to pick up a notebook and start working on a new project.  Not out of avoiding the revision process, but that I start feeling rusty.  I feel the need to write new words somewhere, anywhere.  My personal journal entries (which I write during my midmorning break) are getting more verbose, and I’ve been blogging like a fiend lately.  My brain is clogged with Future Plans for When I’m Caught Up.  I’ve got ideas for the Inktober art meme.  I have a few stories simmering and a new MU story in stasis.

I believe it’s time for me to get creative with my writing time again.

So many words, so little time!